Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona. January, 2014.
Day 3 T-Shirt of Choice: Yeti Kong by Gama-Go
NYC Neighborhoods Visited: JFK Airport, Theater District, Midtown West, and Midtown East.
The third day of our vacation was more of a transition day than anything else. The day started early, very early. We woke up at around 6am and then left the hotel at around 7:30 am and caught the subway to the airport. The nearly 1.5 hour subway ride, really cut into our 9:35 am board time, especially since the trains had to be rerouted. In fact, after all the customs work, we just made it to our terminal with a few minutes to spare before the gate was closed. Whww, disaster averted!
The one hour flight was faster than it would take for us to catch the shuttle from JFK International Airport to our hotel in the Theater District. The shuttle ride was nearly 3 hours long, and at times, it felt like we were going in circles. When we reached Hotel Mela, I was pleasantly surprised to find that we were situated right in the heart of Times Square on 44th street. Times Square is literally a few steps away from our boutique hotel. Awesome!
Having missed breakfast, both me and Michelle were starved. On the recommendation of a few of my Twitter followers, we stopped at the Shake Shack on 44th street (how convenient!). The place was packed to the max. They say that this is the closest thing the East Coast has to In-N-Out. I had the ShakeShack Burger and Michelle had the ‘Shroom Burger. Both were out of this world good. They were both really, really, really good burgers. But at the end of the day, I still have to say that Hodad’s in San Diego is still my favorite burger destination on Earth. Still, a very good burger.
After that we ventured around Times Square for a little bit and did some shopping. Michelle found a Sanrio Luxe store and she was engaged for a good 30 minutes. Sanrio, she loves to buy that stuff for her friends.
Bryant Park was filled to the brim with New Yorkers and tourists alike. Every nook and cranny of the park was being utilized for something, from the ping pong table to the carrousel to the petangue area. If I lived in New York, I could absolutely see myself copping a chair, coffee in hand Â and reading a book for hours at a time.
Once we had our fill of Bryant Park, we walked to both the Chrysler Building and then the Empire State Building. There’s something about the art deco design of The Empire State Building that draws me to it. I love the architecture of that building – it’s stunning, much like NYC.
Before we headed back to Hotel Mela, we stopped by the flagship Macy’s store on 34th Street in Herald’s Square. This is the world’s largest department store, and with 10 extensive floors, I believe it. In fact, the first floor was so large that it alone was overwhelming for the two of us. In fact, overwhelming might be an understatement.
Day 4 T-Shirt of Choice: Easier Said Than Done by Ugmonk
NYC Neighborhoods Visited: Upper West Side, Central Park, Midtown West, Midtown East, Upper East Side, Theater District
We kicked off our morning by stopping at the famed Barney Greengrass for breakfast. This spot came highly recommend by Anthony Bourdain so it was a must visit. Located on the Lower West Side, Barney Greengrass is famous for their sturgeon and salmon, so you know what I had to get for breakfast – sturgeon and salmon! The dish that I ordered featured nice portions of both sturgeon and Nova Scotia salmon as well as big serving of scrambled eggs and a perfectly toasted bagel on the side. Both the sturgeon and the salmon are served cold. I’ve never eaten salmon with eggs for breakfast before, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Coupled with the bagel covered in cream cheese, this unique New York breakfast made for a pleasant surprise. After eating my meal I proclaimed that I could eat this dish every day for breakfast for the rest of my life and be happy.
After the amazing breakfast at Barney Greengrass, we ventured off to explore Central Park. Explore might be an overstatement because Central Park is so large that it is almost impossible to explore its entirety in one visit. So we staked out 5 areas of Central Park that we had to see, including Belvedere Castle, Shakespeare Garden, Graywacke Arch, Bethesda Fountain, and Strawberry Fields. We spent about 3 hours inside of Central Park, but, we were able to see everything we wanted to see, and then some. My favorite area of the park by far was Bethesda Fountain – the size of this Central Park attraction is incredible.
While walking along the Lower West Side we spotted this awesome bus of kindness.
That’s me at the top of Belvedere Castle and overlooking Central Park and the Lower East Side.
While exploring Central Park, we went from West to East, and by the end of the park we had reached the busiest area of 5th Avenue. Apple’s flagship glass cube store had an outrageous line outside. For what you ask? The iPhone 4. Yep, nearly a month after its release, people are still standing in crazy lines to get their hands on one. Nuts.
The big piano in FAO Schwartz was another must visit destination, but alas, there were just too many kids clamoring to jump on those giant piano keys. It’s okay though, I had a chance to play chopsticks ala Tom Hanks from Big, the last time I was there.
Leaving 5ht avenue, we made a stop at Dylan’s Candy Box. I’ve never been here before so when I stepped inside this over-the-top candy store, I was blown away. They seriously have every candy you could ever want. And that was just the first floor. I was dumbfounded when I found out that they had two more floors of candy loving goodness. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Dylan’s Candy Box is a must visit destination in New York City.
Just a block from Dylan’s Candy Box was a restaurant that I had been wanting to visit for quite some time, Serendipity 3. Now, I’ve experienced the Serendipity magic once before in Las Vegas, but, there’s nothing like visiting the original. All I wanted was the Frozen Hot Chocolate but we ended up ordering some lunch as well. The Frozen Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate (I changed my mind and went with Peanut Butter instead of straight up chocolate) was amazing. The only thing about Serendipity 3 is the ridiculous wait time. If you do decide to make a stop at Serendipity 3 I recommend that you check in and then venture off to Dylan’s Candy Box to burn some time. But whatever you do, order the Frozen Hot Chocolate.
Before I had my Frozen Hot Chocolate, I had a Ftatateetaâ€™s Toast. It was pretty awesome.
By the time we finished up at Serendipity 3, it was about 4 pm. We decided to catch a taxi to Rockefeller Center to purchase tickets to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, especially since it was raining and we had done a lot of walking already during the day. We chose the Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building because both me and Michelle checked out the Empire the last time we were each here. After we grabbed our tickets, we headed back to our hotel to rest for a bit and freshen up for the evening.
At this point of the day, my feet were killing me! I can’t tell you how good it feels to kick off my shoes after a long day of walking and trekking. Needless to say, the two hour rest was much needed. Much needed! But there was still a few hours left in the day so we decided to make the best of it. Unfortunately, it started to rain so out came the umbrellas. The first stop was the Top of the Rock. For $20 you get a nice, 360 degree view of New York City, from three different levels. The brightly lit city is definitely something to gawk at. Ironically, the most obvious structure noticeable at the Top of the Rock is the Empire State Building.
Carmine’s was our dinner destination. It’s a family style Italian restaurant with very large portions. Michelle and I ordered the chicken marsala. For dessert, we headed back to the Shake Shack on 44th for the chocolate custard and chocolate shake. Decadence is our middle name.
After dinner we again explored Times Square. At night, Times Square is such a busy beast. Navigating the waves of people and yellow taxis is all part of the experience. And what an experience it has been so far!
And my Seattle/Portland daily recaps continue!
This marked the start of our road trip to neighboring state, Oregon. We began the morning by having breakfast at a little cafe en route to Tacoma, were would switch off with our friends cousin whose car we were borrowing for the trip to Portland. The Shipwreck Cafe is this small stop off of Martin Way in Olympia, Washington. I got the breakfast special, which consisted of chickenfried steak, eggs, hashbrowns and toast. It was better than I expected! Tons of gravy lathered over the chicken steak. Don’t pay attention to the calories because the gravy really makes this dish special.
After breakfast we headed straight for our first stop in Portland, the Full Sail Brewery, which is right next to Hood River. Full Sail Brewery is known for their award winning Session brew. The brewery tour lasted about 30 minutes and was quite interesting and informative. They walk you through the entire beer making process and even let you taste the ingrediants that go into brewing beer. At the end of the tour you score a free Full Sail glass!
The food at Full Sail Brewery was OK but the beer was exceptional. I especially loved the Full Sail Session Lager, that is definitely my type of beer and well worth the 2.5 hour drive from Tacoma. We ended up buying a case to bring back to the hotel.
After Full Sail we headed to Portland to check into our hotel, the third Marriot stop of our Seattle/Portland journey. We got lost. But that was a good thing because we ended up at a Traders Joe’s and bought tons of snacks! I wish Hawaii had a Trader Joe’s.
Lo and behold our hotel was only 5 minutes away from Trader Joes. We made it to our hotel, quickly unpacked and headed out to yet another beer destination – Rogue Distillery & Public House, to meet up with Travis Greenwood of Found Item Clothing and Patrick Treadway of Tilteed! We had a great time chatting about tees, Portland life, tees, and tees! It was great meeting up with those two excellent dudes. And my friends were happy because they scored some free tees from Patrick and one of you lucky readers will score a free tee(s) from Travis (I need to first figure out how to give them away)!
Hey, it’s Patrick from Tilteed.com! He markets, prints, and ships out all Tilteed orders by himself! Talk about dedication and being passionate about what you do! Follow Tilteed on Twitter @Tilteed. Use the code â€œTiltCotyâ€ for an additional $2 off your Tilteed order!
After Rogue, Patrick was kind enough to drive us to VooDoo Doughnuts to get a taste of the weirdness that is Portland! VooDoo Doughnoughts was great experiece filled with an eclectic set of people! I’ve never quite experienced anything like VooDoo Doughnuts. It was a trip to say the least. And Patrick was right, VooDoo Doughnuts is best experienced at night because when we stopped by the following morning, the crowd was a bore compared to the night munchers.
Yes, that’s bacon on top of maple syrup drenched doughnut. Only at VooDoo Doughnuts!
Day 6 T-Shirt of Choice: Make Wellness Not War by I Am Wellness
Portland here we come! The morning was spent exploring the Pearl District of Portland. Our first stop was the famous Powell’s Books on Burnside. To say that this bookstore is huge is a big understatement. It’s ginormous. It’s probably larger than most public libraries you’ve been to. The store is split up into 8 different sections based on genre and occupies three full floors. You could spend countless hours exploring Powell’s, unfortunately our time was limited so our visit was brief (I still left with two new books).
As I was walking through Portland someone walked right pass me and said “I Love Your Shirt”. You can get it from I Am Wellness. Use the code “SUMMER09″ for 15% off (hopefully the code still works).
By the time we were through with Powell’s we headed out to lunch at Old Town Pizza which is an iconic Portland eatery with a haunted reputation. “Donâ€™t be surprised if an unexpected guest joins you for a slice today. A constant presence at Old Town Pizza is Nina (pronounced â€œNigh-naâ€), our resident ghost. If you feel a presence behind you, or smell a faint waft of perfume, you may have just received a visit. Nina is often seen in a black dress observing diners and wandering the basement below.” We settled on the House Pizza topped with salami, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushroom, black olives and bell peppers. The pizza was good but unfortunately there was no sighting of Nina, the resident ghost. I will say, though, that the restroom was freaky as hell. It is very dimly lit in there and I had a weird feeling (while I was peeing no less) that someone was watching me. Freaky!
Ground Kontrol is a neat little vintage arcade that Travis of Found Item Clothing suggested we hit up and I’m glad that we did! We spent about an hour in there playing some very old school arcade games like Centipede, Punch-Out, Simpsons and Space Invaders. This is not your typical arcade because at Ground Kontrol there is a fully functional bar. Awesome.
I’m a huge fan of Punch-Out so I was stoked to find this classic arcade game at Ground Kontrol!
After Ground Kontrol my buddies decided to grab a box of VooDoo doughnuts for the drive back home. While they stood in line (in the hot sun no less and yet another reason to go during the night time) I ventured down the street and stumbled across a neat little coffee/art shop called Stumptown Coffee Roasters. It had a a nice open space as opposed to the typical cramped coffee shop. I had the Queens Iced Tea and it was the cool refreshment that I needed! While the guys stood in that line for VooDoo doughnuts I sipped on my iced tea in air conditioning!
Good bye Portland, I knew you for just a day but I had a great time! Now en route to Tacoma (to return the car), we decided to stop by the Outlet Mall near Chehalis and in Centralia, Washington. The outlet stores of importance included Quicksilver, Billabong, and Nike. We hit those three shops up pretty hard.
From there we caught a shuttle to the 4th and final hotel of our stay – the Marriott Seattle Waterfront, which is just a few steps from Pike’s Place. We didn’t stay in the hotel for long as we decided grab some Clam Chowder from the original Ivar’s Seafood, right on the Seattle Waterfront. When you go to Ivar’s there just one thing you need to get – The Clam Chowder! We ordered one of each of the three different varieties: white, red and salmon. I urge you to do the same.
They encourage you to feed the Seagulls.
Small cup of Salmon Clam Chowder from Iver’s before heading to Del Rays for even more food and drinks!
Next we hit up Del-Rey’s for appetizers and drinks (or should I say beers and margaritas) and then finished the night off by closing down the bar at, appropriately, Ohana’s in Belltown, a Hawaiian themed bar. This was the third night that we stayed at a bar till closing (2am in Seattle).
But the night did not end there. We ventured off into the alley ways of the Seattle Waterfront and eventually ending up at Pier 67. The streets were empty and all that was left were four guys from Hawaii, laughing, talking and enjoying the camaraderie that you get from being with your closest friends.
Strangely enough, we ended our last together at Ohana’s in Belltown.
Day 5 Shirt of Choice:Â Bears, Beets, Battelstar
The San Diego Zoo is one big zoo and it houses an extraordinary amount of animals! But I’m getting ahead of myself. We first had breakfast at Hash House A Go Go, a place were big food is the norm. The portions at Hash House A Go Go are, in the words of the New York Times, gastronomic! And from firsthand experience, I know that they aren’t kidding. The portions here were huge and definitely a little daunting. It’s a great place to go on a hungry stomach or to share a plate with a friend. I ordered the Andy’s Special, which consisted of Ham Steak and a biscuit on a bed of mashed potatoes topped with spinach, tomato, ham, scrambled eggs, cheddar and covered in chili cream. The dish was good (and a little on the spicy end) but for some reason I probably did not enjoy it as much as I should have simply because of the enormity of the serving.Â
That monstrosity is the Andy’s Special at Hash House A Â Go Go!
After breakfast we headed over once again to Balboa Park en route to the San Diego Zoo. Again, I cannot stress enough the size of Balboa Park, at just about 1,174 acres big, you would definitely need at least two days minimum to see (or try to see) everything it has to offer. We snapped a few pictures and then made our way to the zoo entrance and eagerly jumped onto the first of many zoo trails, the monkey trail. Our favorite part of the zoo had to be the new Elephant Odyssey, which had opened just a few days prior. It’s a massive area of the zoo that was created just for the elephants. By the end of the day we had done all of the trails, rode on the Skyfari Aerial Tram twice, did the guided bus tour and saw a whole lot of animals!
Me posing next to an ancestor.
And finally, for our last night in San Diego, we walked to the Little Italy district, which was just 9 blocks or so away from The Sophia Hotel. I’ve been to a couple of Little Italy’s in different cities and this one was a little subdued compared to the others. We had dinner at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. What’s interesting about Filippi’s is that you must walk through their “cash and carry” Italian grocery store and deli, stocked with cheeses, pasta and a lot of various imports from Italy before ending up at the restaurant. The line was out the door, so we knew it had to be good! The servings at Filippi’s were huge. I ordered the Spaghetti with Sausage and Meatball and Michelle had the Chicken Parmigiana with Spaghetti. This Filippi’s is actually the first of this California chain and has been serving excellent pasta and pizza for over 50 years now. By the time we left Filippi’s, it was dark out and the Little Italy district had picked up steam, was lively and filled with people, drinking, eating and having a merry time.Â
Until I make it to the real Italy, these Little Italy’s will have to do for now.
Tomorrow: Las Vegas, NV
Day 6 Shirt of Choice:Â No shirt, just a standard polo
This was our last day in San Diego and our first day in Las Vegas! The morning consisted of some last minute packing, returning of the rental car and shipping some stuff back home via the United States Postal Service. After those errands we had a quick breakfast at The Cheese Shop were I had the breakfast sandwich and Michelle the eggs & sausage.Â
The flight to Las Vegas was short, just about an hour, but was worth it considering that a drive to Sin City would take a considerably longer.Â
It only take a few seconds after leaving the flight deck to be enamored by the Las Vegas lifestyle of cha-chings! Even in the airport you can hear people gambling their money away. We swiftly picked up our luggage, found our shuttle bus and headed to the Bellagio. After a mishap with the rooms, we found our way to our guest room in the Spa Tower of the Bellagio with a view of the famous Bellagio fountains, Bally’s and the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel. The view from our room was superb!
This is a peak at the Conservatory within the Bellagio. It’s always packed with people.Â
We spent little time in the room, though. After quickly unpacking we headed out to Las Vegas Boulevard and went straight to Caesar’s Palace for dinner at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill. Unfortunately, the place was packed and they didn’t serve tables of two until after 9pm. So instead, we walked to the Fashion Show Mall and afterwards checked out the Forum Shoppes at Caesar’s. By the time we finished shopping we were just in time for our 10:00pm reservations at Mesa Grill. I have to admit that the wait was definitely worth it! We both ordered steaks – I guess we were both craving some red meat! I had the Black Angus New York Strip Steak with Homemade MESA Steak Sauce. Michelle had the Coffee Rubbed Filet Mignon withÂ Mushroom-Ancho Chile Sauce. My medium cooked steak came out so tender and juicy, it was an absolute delight! The bread was also a welcomed surprise. The bread basket consisted of a three types of breads with my favorite being the jalapeno parmesan.Â
And my steak at MESA Grill. So delicious!
After dinner, we checked out Serendipity 3 in Caesar’s Palace for desert. Serendipity 3Â is a New York based restaurant known for their deserts, especially their frozen hot chocolate. And I can honestly say that the frozen hot chocolate was a massively decadent mouthgasm! It was so good that we came back for more (but more on that later).Â
Tomorrow: The Phantom and Mario Batali’s B&B Ristorante
Thereâ€™s a new hot (or should I say cold) spot in Manoa and itâ€™s called Yogurtland. Located at the former Volcano Joeâ€™s location, Yogurtland has been attracting a lot of buzz as of late from Manoa residents. A mainland chain, Yogurtland serves up the decadent desert by the ounce (32 cents per ounce). You can expect to spend a little over three bucks for a nice serving of yogurt along with a bunch of toppings.
There are tons of flavors to choose from, including classics like strawberry, vanilla and chocolate as well as more exotic flavors like pistachio, mango, taro, green tea and New York cheesecake. There is also a mix of tart flavors and no sugar flavors. Flavors rotate so donâ€™t get too attached to any one flavor.
Walking into Yogurtland is like walking right into a Crayola Crayon box, you know, the one with over a hundred different colors. From the colorful seating to the well-dressed walls, Yogurtland is one colorful experience. The wide selection of toppings add to the color flair at Yogurtland. There are dozens of different toppings to choose from, including the basics like granola and almonds to fresh fruit and other sweet treats.Â
Iâ€™ve already been to Yogurtland at Manoa twice and have been more than satisfied on both occasions. This cheap desert can make for a great fruit and granola filled breakfast, fast lunch for the penny-pinching college student or the perfect desert after a night out. If youâ€™re looking for a nice escape from the boring TCBY fair, than definitely make the trip out to Manoa at serve yourself up some yummy yogurt.
1810 University Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96805
(808) 951-4444Â Â